ESSAY WRITING STEP BY STEP
“Write an essay? But I don’t know how!” If you are unnerved by the thought of writing a college essay, remember that this task can be accomplished in the same way as any other—one step at a time. An effective essay is the result of careful thinking, planning, writing, and revising. If you work hard on the first two steps, the last two will be much easier. Your goal is to produce an essay whose content is focused, well-developed, and clear.
THINKING (Many decisions must be made before you actually write anything down.)
1. Consider purpose: The general purpose of your essay will usually be determined by your instructor. To be sure you know the ...view middle of the document...
Select and narrow a topic: Your topic should have significance for the reader and should be specific enough for you to adequately discuss in the required number of words or pages. If research is necessary, you may find it easier to first gather material on your general topic and then narrow your topic. (These two steps may need to be repeated more than once as you work on your paper.) For example, if you need to write a five-page essay on the effects of air pollution, you would severely limit the scope of your paper. The following example shows how to narrow your topic until the focus is specific enough for a five-page paper:
The effects of air pollution (most general)
The effects of air pollution on children’s health
The effects of air pollution on respiratory diseases in urban children
The effects of air pollution on the prevalence and severity of childhood asthma in urban areas (most specific)
5. Choose a writing strategy: To communicate ideas to readers, writers employ many types of strategies, such as description, narration, comparison/contrast, definition, classification, argument/persuasion, analysis, and evaluation. The strategy (or “method” or “mode”) you choose for a particular assignment will be partly determined by the purpose of your assignment and the expectations of the instructor. Using primarily one strategy may be appropriate for one assignment, while using several strategies may strengthen the effectiveness of another essay.
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PLANNING (Write down a plan to guide you when you write your first draft.)
1. Create a tentative thesis: Write out the main point you want to make about your topic in a complete sentence. This sentence is called a thesis; it should be a mini-summary of your whole essay. Everything else that you write will be related to this idea. If you are able to at this point, write out your possible sub-points in sentences, also. Sub-points are the ideas you present to support (“prove”) your thesis. In an argument essay the sub-points would be the reasons for your claim. The sub-points of a compare/contrast essay would be the similarities and differences between two or more subjects. You might not use these sentences word-for-word in your essay, but by writing out your ideas in this way you ensure that your thinking about your topic is crystal clear, which will assist you in remaining focused on your topic. Note: If your thesis must be supported by research, you need to read widely and take notes by whatever method you prefer before writing your tentative thesis. Be sure to include all necessary citation information in your notes.
2. Write down supporting content in a loosely-organized way: In order to logically relate your own ideas or contents of your notes, create a list, chart, cluster, or whatever plan you prefer, as long as it...